It was like a scene from some old college movie, like something from an era before lethal sex diseases and the internet and all the other things that changed our world forever. Some fresh-faced young white men playing the blues, pool tables, indoor neon, stained glass, 50-cent Pabst bottles, girls -- it seems like something might happen. We arrived with some trepidation, wondering whether or not this scene would be cool. It had gotten a little ugly back at the house, Nick trying to motivate and getting a little poisonous with his testosterone, but we'd turned it around, paid our two dollar cover, and now we were attempting to have fun on a Wednesday night in Eugene Oregon. It was a gamble, no doubt, but the feeling was at least half-right.
The scene was young -- strange how 22-year-olds can make you feel decrepit -- but pretty friendly. I was stuck with a pack of men who were lonesome but who'd long ago made the lifestyle choice not to dance. We sat in our booth and downed round after round of bottled beer, watching the flesh parade, trying to dig the tunes, figure out the vibe. I found the shell repressive, but backed against the wall I saw no way to break out without being divisive.
But how about that parade! There were conversation stopping moments: a beautiful girl with hips of divinity in big boots and high cheekbones, smilin' blonds with flannel and friends and (we surmise from the available evidence) coke in the bathroom, tall brunettes, trashy fun-girls, and so on. There were a lot of hemp-necklaced young men in superior physical condition, man-children who'd yet to put on any beer-weight, and one old balding crazy disgrace who reminded us all too much of what we might someday become if we were ever to stew too long in isolation. While entertaining for me personally, the scene largely rendered the group impotent.
And I am in the hometown, now sitting at the local yuppie market where I heard they gave free wireless internet access but that turns out to be a lie -- someone's got it, but it's locked down and passworded; bitches -- sipping fine black tea and eating an oatmeal cookie in the sun, remembering the moments from last night with an anthropological eye.
Many of my friends truly do not enjoy coming home. This may be because when we were growing up here we were not big men on campus, we were not cocks of the walk, we were largely unknown and frustrated by our unrealized potential. Now we've gone some ways into the world and tastes a few sweet morsels of success. Returning can look like regression. On the wrong kind of evening, coming back feels like taking a bath in adolescent failure. With a hangover and a streak of bad times, this burg takes on the appearance of a podunk plastic smallsville and an elitist bullshit do-nothing liberal slack chamber; simultaneously at times. It's a devilish paradox and bound to infuriate.
I personally tend toward a more relaxed view on things. I try to look on the bright side and enjoy what there is to enjoy. It's only Eugene, I think. No sense getting worked up about anything. Not to say I don't have my moments, but they usually owe more to occasional concentrations of negativity and nihilism in my social circle than my actual surroundings.
So I tried to have fun at the poolhall concert. I sure did get drunk. Eventually we splintered, Nick and JD heading out and me and the local boys -- Dan and Abe -- rolling on down to the next place. These are friends of mine who we all talk about needing to make a move in their lives, who we all agree have a lot of potential. It dawned on me as we walked into the other club and were not asked to pay the cover, when we were afforded very personal service from an overworked bar-staff, when we slid next door to test the after-hours waters, that these fellows were putting their potential to work. They were known about town. They were still scummy punk-rock service industry deadbeats, but in another sense they live like kings, and I envy their ease and status in my old city by the river.
As I biked my boozy path home, it seemed the real good times might still be just around the corner.
I expected -- and still expect -- quite a lot from this summer. There's a lot to sort out. I'm not pushing it though. It comes in bits and pieces; walking down by a river in Northern California where the trees are 350 feet tall and 20 feet wide, feeling the solace of starry skies framed by god's own skyscrapers; watching the Pacific in oregon with it's majestic cliffs and unimaginable and forgiving depth; sitting in an upstairs coffeehouse room talking politics with a bunch of my seniors; it's coming together slowly. I could use a little more action, but I trust that the hiccoughs we're feeling now are just the results of bad carburetion. The mix will be right soon, and then we will drive with true purpose.
And now some damn hyperlinks:
Where are those pesky Weapons of Mass Distruction?
Britt Blaser is good at pulling together quotes